BWW Review: MACBETH, Royal Exchange Theatre
It's a story of love, war and one of the greatest tragedies ever told. Macbeth has returned to Manchester for a run at the Royal Exchange Theatre. However, there is a slight difference: Macbeth is played by a woman.
Director Christopher Haydon takes this edge-of-your-seat play to new levels as Lucy Ellinson stars as the reimagined Macbeth, a soldier donning army gear and a pair of shades - a far cry from 10th-century Scotland. Ellison plays the role well, easily convincing audiences that she's a murderer, a leader, and, later, someone on the brink of madness.
The relationship between Ellinson's Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, played by Ony Uhiara, is an unhealthy one to say the least. As you're drawn into their world of deception and secrets, the actresses play superbly off one another to make every emotion feel real and palpable.
The three witches, played by Bryony Davies, Nicola May-Taylor and Charlotte Merriam, add an ever-present eerie undertone to the production, and scenes that feature the ghost of Banquo, portrayed by Theo Ogundipe, stand out as some of the best parts of the play.
The casting may have had a shake-up, but the threat and darkness of the classic play is very prominent. As violence, blood and perhaps a little too much gore fills the stage, this production should come with a warning.
The Royal Exchange is the ideal venue for the play, and set designer Oli Townsend and lighting designer Colin Grenfell get it just right, creating the perfect atmosphere throughout the performance.
Overall, however, this reimagined version of Shakespeare's tragedy seems to have lost sight of what Macbeth is about. As an audience member, if you were to go in to this play blind, you would leave a little bit confused. You can really see where Haydon has tried a little too hard to make things different. From the double identity of Rachel Denning, who plays Lady Macduff as well as the Porter, to the banquet that has a game of musical chairs thrown in, it's all a bit much and ends up rather messy.
The actors play their parts as well as they can do and were definitely the right choices by casting directors Jerry Knight-Smith and Vicky Richardson, but nothing really stands out, as most of the time is spent trying to figure out what is actually going on.